A complete list of things to do at Lake Mead would probably be as long as it’s the 750-mile shoreline. I exaggerate, but only for effect.
As the largest reservoir in the country, Lake Mead, Nevada, is a national treasure chest of sandy shorelines and bays perfect for fishing. Swim in crystal blue water, or camp and hike surrounded by breathtaking scenery all year round—boat to the mammoth Hoover Dam.
Or relax and soak up the sun when you need a break from glittery Las Vegas casinos and shows. Many hotels, resorts, and lodges are available for your stay. But you might drive in an RV that will hold all the gear you need. Or you can set up a simple camp under the shimmering night sky so you can count stars and make wishes.
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Before you start, check out our list of the best things to do at Lake Mead.
We picked our activities based on accommodations, likely weather conditions, and accessibility. Before hopping into these activities, let’s look at the area with a complete Lake Mead National Recreation Area map.
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Lake Mead National Recreation Area Map
Our activities are ranked based on visitor reviews. Try one or all of them for an unforgettable vacation on amazing Lake Mead.
Best Things to Do at Lake Mead on the Water
Lake Mead is enormous at about 290 square miles. So there’s plenty of space to explore all the great fun the water offers. To avoid disappointment, it’s highly recommended that you make reservations for rentals and tours ahead of time.
1. Lake Mead Boating
Boating is one of the most popular things at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the best way to enjoy the beautiful scenery. You are welcome to bring your own or rent one from one of the marinas. Boats of all types are available, including houseboats.
Houseboats are fantastic on Lake Mead because it’s recreational boating and camping right on the water. You can rent them easily from the marinas that dot the shore.
Once you’re out on the open water, you know you’ll have a hull of a good time–sorry. Everyone loves boat puns. If you bring your own, you must purchase a vessel pass with your vehicle pass at the entrance.
You must also obtain an Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) decal and display it prominently. This rule does not apply to boats registered in Arizona. Lake Mead’s water levels can change dramatically and regularly. Check elevation levels before using launch ramps.
If you decide to rent, ensure the marina staff provides safety information. They can get busy, so ask for instructions if you need them. It’s not wise to let them assume you know how to handle a boat if you’re a novice.
And bring food with you. There are no snack shacks on the water. But there are very nice accommodations on land. The Boulder Dam Hotel in Boulder City is not far from the Hoover Dam. This highly-rated hotel offers a restaurant and museum.
2. Lake Mead Fishing
The fishing is fantastic on Lake Mead. Pick a spot and try your luck hooking bass, rainbow trout, catfish, sunfish, and crappie. You can fish from several piers or your boat. Since the lake sits between two states, you must know your location and regulations.
Otherwise, fishing is allowed 24 hours a day. You’ll need a Nevada or Arizona fishing license which can be purchased in town or at the marinas. The marinas will sell fishing supplies and bait if needed. Fish cleaning stations are conveniently located around the lake too. Fishing guides are excellent, but they don’t come cheap. Use them if you’re serious about catching fish.
Otherwise, wing it and have fun. If you plan to stay near the lake for round-the-clock fishing, an RV park at Boulder Beach is an excellent and convenient option.
But for exceptional accommodations just a few miles away, look at the resort-like Hoover Dam Lodge. The Hoover Dam Lodge, 3.5 miles from Lake Mead in Boulder City, offers free wifi, flat-screen cable TV, and an outdoor pool for cooling relaxation.
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3. Lake Mead Jet Ski Rentals
There are exciting things to do at Lake Mead–like jet ski rentals. Several marinas have them readily available. Even though the area is considered a hot desert, the Lake Mead water temperature will vary with the seasons.
But you can count on the summers being extraordinarily hot and dry, making Lake Mead perfect for recreation in or on the water. Lots of folks like to explore the Narrows area of Lake Mead. The best marina for exploring this pretty part of the lake is Calville Bay.
Or get up close to Hoover Dam for a unique viewpoint. The marinas will have maps and tips for the best swimming spots. Bring picnic supplies if you see a good place to moor for lunch. Since the lake is so large, you should be able to find a private spot.
Call ahead to the marinas and get their hours of operation so you can plan. You don’t want to arrive just as they are putting everything away. Stay close to the action with a lodge stay at nearby Katherine Landing on Lake Mohave–part of the Lake Mead Recreation Area.
The Lake Mohave Marina and Lodge offer an on-site bar/lounge and clean, air-conditioned rooms at reasonable rates. They also carry various rentals, RV hookups, and campsites. It has an excellent rating on Kayak.
See Related: Best Things to Do in the Mojave Desert
4. Lake Mead Kayaking
Lake Mead kayaking or canoeing are great activities because their size means you’re not competing with other watercraft for space. The waters are calm, and the surrounding mountains are picturesque.
Rentals at the marinas are plentiful, and you can even hire a guide for an exciting tour and to take your Instagram photos for you. Life jackets are required by law, but the marinas will provide you with those and any instruction you need for a relaxing paddle.
Watch for wildlife and deserted beaches. There are also places to camp if you’d like a fun overnight trip. A few housekeeping notes: there is an entry fee, you should start early, and you’ll need to bring your food and water.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Arizona
5. Lake Mead Paddle Boarding
Paddleboarding anywhere is excellent. Lake Mead paddle boarding, though, is another level of fun. Taking a guided stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) the tour is highly recommended.
With a reservation, a few outfitters will pick you up from your Las Vegas hotel. After a stop for breakfast and to pick up lunch, you’ll ride in an air-conditioned van right to the launch site.
Paddleboards will be ready and waiting for you. The highly trained guides will give you a quick lesson if needed and take you off on a guided tour of majestic Lake Mead.
The guides involved with everything to do at Lake Mead National Recreation Area love to point out what they love about the park. They know all the places to see animals, find hidden coves, and the best lore. You’ll learn so much more than if you go it alone.
Lake Mead paddle boarding is one of the most highly rated things to do at Lake Mead. For an excellent resort experience on the Las Vegas Strip, Vdara Hotel & Spa at ARIA Las Vegas features contemporary suites with kitchenettes. It’s non-smoking and non-gaming, but it’s connected to Bellagio and within walking distance of ARIA. There’s also a rooftop pool.
See Related: Best Things to Do on the West Coast
Best Things to Do at Lake Mead on Land
Some of the best things to do at Lake Mead are exploring the national recreation area and the land around it.
6. Scout the Backcountry
Hiking and Lake Mead camping are unique in the area’s expansive backcountry. This eastern Mohave Desert backcountry contains a unique ecosystem best appreciated on foot.
Guided ranger tours are available year-round. Summer hikes aren’t recommended during the day due to dangerous heat levels. But the other seasons offer more comfortable temps for an immersive experience in one of the most magnificent landscapes in the world.
There are approved camp areas for those with vehicles throughout, and you can stay at one site for up to 15 days. If you’re the adventurous type and are entirely walking, you can camp anywhere in the backcountry unless posted. You’ll find it meticulously maintained anywhere, as it is national parkland. But don’t feel you must rough it entirely in the wilderness.
See Related: Do You Need a Rental Car in Las Vegas?
7. Lake Mead Camping
You can also set up camp from your car at the easily accessible Boulder Beach. The sites are first come-first served. They’re near the lake and launching ramps; the views can’t be beaten.
Neither can the night sky. Be aware that changes in water levels may make a difference in how close you’ll be to the lake; the beach is more rocky than sandy. Remember, though, it’s hot in the summer, like triple degrees. But the winters are mild and pleasant.
And the spring and fall are fantastic. Always keep an eye out for the weather when planning to sleep out in it. Consider renting a recreational vehicle or RV if tent lodging is not your style. Boulder Beach also offers sites for RVs.
You’ll get the fun of camping but with more comfortable accommodations. Modern RVs have kitchens and bathrooms with showers and can sleep multiple people in separate beds. You can even watch TV at night! That’s pretty darn comfy. Then open the door the next morning to greet the day at Lake Mead. Can’t you smell the fresh-brewed coffee?
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Southern California
8. Hoover Dam
Possibly the most famous dam in the country, the Hoover Dam is an arch-gravity dam constructed of concrete. It spanned the border between Arizona and Nevada and was erected during the Depression between 1931 and 1936. Thousands of workers were involved in its construction, with more than one hundred lives lost.
From this feat of engineering came Lake Mead which provides water to millions in Nevada, California, Arizona, and even Mexico. Also, no one was buried alive in it. That’s a legend. But the work was dangerous and low-paying, starting at 50 cents an hour. Today, it controls the Colorado River and sends power and water to the southwest.
If you’re looking for cool things to do at Lake Mead National Recreational Center, you can quickly drive here from Las Vegas. Tours at the Hoover Dam are available for a fee, but you can also walk across the bypass for free.
The views of the dam from here are stunning, and you’ll be able to take photos. There is a parking lot so that you can take the pedestrian walkway. If you drive across, you won’t be able to see much. During peak season, the lines for the tour can get long.
But seeing the Hoover Dam is another attractive option to add to your Vegas Vacation. Another hotel choice in Las Vegas is The Venetian. This Italian-themed resort is a fabulous all-suite, full-service hotel in the heart of the famous Strip and features twenty restaurants, bars, and lounges available, as well as a nightclub and casino.
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Jen is a Pittsburgh-based writer with a background in hospitality and tourism. Her specialties include sales and marketing technology and travel content. When she isn’t on assignment, Jen catches up on her many newsletter subscriptions, watches nocode tutorials, and spends time with her family.